Wynen, James

Last Modified: 21-2-2019 9:40

Wynen arrived in Cloudy Bay in 1839 from Sydney. He settled in Port Underwood and with the help of local Maori he built a house in the small settlement there. He was soon very much accepted by Maori to whom he was known as Waiana and at some time around 1841 he married Kuika Rangiawa, a young Ngati Toa chiefteness.

While Wynen was on a visit to Nelson in January 1843 his wife and infant son were brutally murdered. His baby daughter died a few days later. The wife of the murderer, also Maori, heard of what he had done and informed her elders. Enraged, the tribe planned to execute the perpetrator immediately but Rev. Samuel Ironside convinced them that a fair English court of law should deal with the matter. Dick Cook, the murderer was therefore brought to trial. His wife testified against him, but on the grounds that a Maori woman's evidence was not equal to that of his, he was aquitted and went unpunished. This result was to further disillusion Ngati Toa as to the merits of "English justice," and harden their attitude to settle land disputes with the English in more traditional methods.

After his wife's death Wynen moved to the Boulder bank where he set up a store. Apart from supplying usual supplies for whalers and settlers he also made liquor available illegally to those wanting it. In a short time his accomadation house became famous for its drunken revellry. Ironicly, his was the first licenced bar in Marlborough. Legend has it that when Lieutenant Governer Eyre returned from climbing Tapuae O Uenuku he wanted somewhere to buy refreshments. When he arrived at Wynen's accommadation house his request was denied because there was no permit so the lieutenant governer granted a permit there and then and was served his refreshments.

In 1855 Wynen sold up and moved to Blenheim where he set up the Beaver Hotel. Located on present day Wynen Street the hotel was painted bright red and built out of gin cases. Very little is known about Wynen before coming to New Zealand. Despite associating with rough ill-educated whalers, settlers found him educated and apparently of good parentage. Dutch by birth Wynen always left an impression on visitors with his courtesy and urbanity.

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Wynen, James. (2019) Retrieved April, 24, 2024, from